Thursday, March 31, 2011

Farewell, Marco

Vinu vecchiu ed ogghiu novu.

I never knew Marco DeBartoli. I loved his wines. In 2005 I visited his winery. But it was in 2001 on Pantelleria that I came across the magical place, Bukkuram, not far from where I was staying. And that was my introduction to DeBartoli and his wines.

He wasn’t but a few years older than me, but it seemed his time here on earth was done. I really felt his wines. Truth be told, I tried to sell them here in Texas and was unsuccessful. Not for any reason that the wines were lacking. But they are wines for a particular kind of person. Having Sicilian blood coursing through my veins, I fully understood. I drank more of them than I sold. They were liquid lust.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If you cant stand the the heat

More pix from a fabulous (and needed) dinner last night at Stephan Pyles. Yesterday was a challenging day; let’s just leave it at that. So when I was invited to sup @ Stephan Pyles, and a wine dinner that I didn’t have to talk at, I jumped! Hudson Ranch and Vineyards – Carneros, California – I knew nothing about them – they brought their own pork, which owner Lee Hudson had butchered a few days before and schlepped to Texas via American Airlines. Having just been to Friuli and watched a couple of brother pigs receive a similar fate; I knew this was food we should eat with reverence and slowly. The wine was fab, the crowd was lively. We sat next to the accomplished cardiologist, Harold Urschel (and his lovely wife Betsy) who worked on Gov. John Connolly on that fateful day in Dallas in 1963. He had many things to say about that day – history passing right before our eyes and ears.

Anyway, I have tons to do. Monday Sharon Hage, Tuesday Stephan Pyles, wonder how I can top that? Stay tuned. American Airlines, do ya feel me?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Palmento dinner with Robert Camuto and Sharon Hage at Jimmy's in Dallas

...with a little Sicilian photo lagniappe for dessert at the end

Palmento author, Robert Camuto with chef Sharon Hage under the Sicilian trinacria

Short and sweet. Last night in Dallas at Jimmy’s in old east Dallas, there was a confluence, lets say a trinacria, of wine and food. And we were all the richer and happier for it. Robert Camuto was in town to talk about his new book on Sicily, Palmento. Sharon Hage was in town back for a spell from New York. And Paul Di Carlo and the Jimmy’s family were in ‘da house. And the place was filled with book lovers, Sicilian romantics, great wine great words and the food – out of this world!

Pictures – captions – self-guided tour – with a little lagniappe, the Alfonso “way-back machine” going back to 1971 and Sicily when it really was feral. If you live long enough all these things become historical. Anyway, talk amongst yourselves: eat drink, love, write - breathe.

A huge thanks to Michael Sutton for pressing for this event – without you Michael it wouldn’t have happened

Thanks to everyone: Robert, Sharon, Matt, Paul Mike, Mary, Rebecca, Jeff, Joe, Tom and anyone else I have nor mentioned. Oh, and sorry again to the gent that I dropped that bottle of Delila on.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rummaging Around the Wine Trail

I’m obsessed with cameras. I keep looking for the one that will help me solve the little puzzles that are put before me. With a camera, I can capture a moment, 1/100th of a second, take it home and give it a real long look. I can take memories into custody, run my fingers past them, go over them one more time- the Christmas dinner 30 years ago, the wine tasting 30 days ago, the meal 30 minutes ago. All to myself. No explaining to the skeptics, the all-inclusive faithful ones, truth be damned. Inside-out turned within, to gaze upon, to savor, to be free from the master and the misanthrope. My own little world, even if it is just rummaging around other folks debris.

Why the camera? For the moments we never seem to remember. So many of us are hustling about for the next great wine, the best little hilltop village in Southern Italy, the prettiest gal at the dance, that those little details escape our gaze. We are looking for something. And in the ensuing hunt, we miss out on the stuff of life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Italian Wine DOCG News - Now up to "60"

...the latest news from "The Other Side"

Carnac the Magnificent. by Victor McCay
There is not enough coffee or amaro to make sense of the Byzantine arrangement that the Italian government has devised to anoint the latest DOCG wines in Italy. Back rooms, mind reading, herding cats, I have tried all techniques, and I know this will be an incomplete task. Someone will find something under a rock, in a river, inside a plastic bag at the bottom of the ocean. If you do, send it along and we will check it out, find a way to make sense of an ordering that has pretty must lost any significance. But like fantasy baseball, it does keep me off the streets in the darkest hours. So I guess one could say this quest to discern all the known DOCG wines of Italy has saved my life. That said, your guess is as good as mine, or Carnac the Magnificent’s. The envelope please:

The Newly Anointed "10"



DOCG "Lison", (a name derived from the historical DOC Lison-Pramaggiore)



Still waiting at the altar
· Montepulciano d' Abruzzo Casauria (or “Terre di Casauria”)
· Prosecco di Prosecco (political appointment for the town of Prosecco in Friuli)

So with ten (10) cats a herded, that would make the magic number, at this point in time and space a total of 59 (*with the proviso that the two in asterisks have not yet been published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale, so they are awaiting their "official" notification, which is somewhere down in the "administrative" queue) ...listing after the break

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pour Decisions

I have looked at a lot of wine lists lately, in regards to Italian places, but not exclusively. One wine director recently bragged to folks at the bar, ”I tried to find things no one would recognize”. Really? Is that what I, as an owner, would like a beverage director to do to my wine program? Find things no one would recognize? What am I missing here?

If the consultant, director, whatever we call the person who designs a wine program, is at the restaurant all the working hours, it shouldn’t be a problem. But as it was, in the case of the place where the consultant put together a list of “unrecognizables”, two out of three times I was there, said consultant wasn’t there. So what good was this program?

A good friend recently told me, over lunch, "If you ain’t selling, you aren't here for long.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yιαγιά's Afghan

Last Monday I was at my computer at work and a message from my sister Tina popped up from Facebook. It was breviloquent. 10 words. 42 characters. “Just to let you know that Nick's mother passed away.” The funeral was to be the next day.

I later found out from my mother that Nick’s mother, Arianthi, passed away on the previous Thursday, before the earthquake in Japan. I probably would have gone if I had found out earlier, but as often happens, it was not to be. Just like when my wife Liz passed away, my mom came out. I told all the rest of the family to stay home; we’d have a memorial service for Liz in California. But as often happens, it was also not to be.

My brother in law, Nick, his family is Greek. His mother, Arianthi, whom we all called Yia-Yia (Yιαγιά), was a wonderful person. As was her husband, Demetri. But first, the afghan.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thissur Pooram and Italy at 150 years: Something Worth Celebrating

My dear friends at Querciavalle celebrated the 150 years of Italian unity over a classic plate of pasta that mamma made. I have watched this winery pass from generation to generation (three now) in my short time knowing and loving these people.

Valeria writes, "Per celebrare i 150 anni, la famiglia Losi ha pranzato con delle belle tagliatelle fatte in casa,basilico, ricotta e pomodorini e ha brindato con un buon Chianti Classico Querciavalle 2007."

Valeria Losi sent me these pictures via Facebook. To me this is one of the triumphs of unity, something I would like to see more in America. Beautiful, traditional food, with beautiful, traditional wine made by beautiful, traditional people.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Blitzing with Barbaresco

What goes with BBQ besides Babaresco? How about a little 1990 Ridge Montebello for starters?
You’ve gotta love a guy like Aldo Vacca, who gets off a plane straight from Italy, and heads right into a situation that requires him to be “on”. Not that being at my home on a Sunday is exactly something you have to shine your wing tips for, but nonetheless, there he was, at the front door with bottles of his 2005 single vineyard Barbarescos, ready to get after some Texas BBQ, classic Caesar salad and King Ranch chicken casserole.

The idea for the week was for Aldo to come into Texas and swing his way from Dallas through Austin (right smack dab in the middle of SXSW) and ending up in Houston. By now he is readying to go to Colorado, but an intense few days it has been for one of the hardiest working men in the wine business.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Now is the time for YES!

My Sardinian friend Francesco, Cecio, showed up early Saturday morning for our yearly pruning of the fig tree ritual. Cecio learned from the old people in Sardegna how to prune and my fig tree wouldn’t let anyone else but him do the job.

The first time he did it the tree looked forlorn and hopeless. But I remembered seeing similar trees in Italy and offered up hope and trust that he was doing the right thing. He proved to be one who learned his lessons well from the old souls on that very ancient island. The fig tree has given back ten fold in fruit, much to the joy of the local mockingbird population.

But our morning together is more than a simple pruning. It is a way for me to connect with something old and ancient that I didn’t grow up with. Francesco came here twenty or so years ago, following his older brother who had established a successful Italian restaurant in town. They have since parted ways, gone on to do their own thing. I am not even sure they talk to one another anymore. They are both big trees and not subject to being pruned by one another. That seems to be the way of islanders. Fiercely independent, sometimes stubborn, but never unsure of where they are going. Sometimes it is over a cliff, but when they land at the bottom, it seems they brush themselves off and clamber back up to the top. Survivors.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Italy: Without a Doubt

When it all gets to be a little too much, when the heat of the day goes from tepid to searing, when all this running around and shuffling and commotion becomes just so much noise and distraction, I pull in. I want my own little vision of Italy to wield its power over me. I don’t want to worry about whether or not I speak or understand the language well enough. I never will. I’ll never be an insider in the language of words department. That’s for other people with those talents.

No, the little universe of Italy that’s wrapped around my heart and mind is a place somewhere in the middle, with rolling hills and a nearby beach with salty water and the setting for the happiness that Italy represents to me. My Italy isn’t perfect but it’s damn well near, and it works just fine for me.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Brunello Dunello:Words to Ponder in Times of Folly

Dune and Duner ~ further ruminations on the nature of Montalcino wine

He who controls the Spice controls the Brunello-verse!

He who can destroy a thing, can control a thing.
Frank Herbert

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Authentic or Delicious: What’ll you have?

Two-steppin' between translation and interpretation

Maybe it’s that we are waiting for new releases. Maybe wine blogging is dead. I don’t read about how a wine tastes very often on line where it makes me want to go buy it and drink it. But then, I have plenty of wines that need to be tasted and hopefully, enjoyed.

Which leads me into what I really am thinking about. I think about it a lot. This whole genuine vs. innovative debate that appears on line and in person. I am really torn. I love, love, love real authentic Italian fare. I eat lots of it in Italy and 80-90% of it is also delicious.

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